Should Chicago tax suburbanites who work in the city?

October 8, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The debate happens every year in Chicago around budget time when the usual deficit is a hot topic.

In the study by the union-backed Grassroots Collaborative, three of every four downtown workers are commuters who do not live or pay taxes in the city of Chicago. The study claims the city has spent more than a billion dollars in the past decade subsidizing downtown job creation.

"So our Chicago taxpayers are paying for these jobs to be created yet aren't getting direct benefit," Amisha Patel, Grassroots Collaborative, said.

With the city confronted by a projected $330 million deficit...aldermen as well as activists are renewing the call for a "commuter tax."

"If we are short on revenue, we need to look at all possibilities," Alderman Emma Mitt, 37th Ward, said.

"We don't want to tax people out of the city. We're doing that right now," Alderman Ariel Reboyras, 30th Ward, said.

New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Birmingham, Alabama are just a few of the many American cities that levy an income tax on commuters as well as residents. Despite his budget dilemma, Mayor Rahm Emanuel says no way.

"That's the wrong way to go, it's not the way to go," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

Ted Dabrowski says Mayor Emanuel's worsening deficit problem is caused by overspending and the pension crisis.

"If there's any taxes raised, they're only going to pensions. They're not going to put more police on the streets, they're not going to help our schools," Dabrowski, Illinois Policy Institute, said.

The Grassroots Collaborative reports that while commuters might spend money while at work downtown, the tax-free billions they take home to the suburbs are not helping Chicago's neighborhoods.

"We're spending billions of dollars on subsidizing corporations and infrastructure downtown yet the benefits of that subsidy, of that investment is not going to our neighborhoods," Amisha Patel said.

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